10 Tips for Essential Work Search

10 Tips for Essential Work Search

By: Deanne Esdale | Career Education Specialist with Francis Mercurio | Career Peer
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SFU's Career Specialist Deanne Esdale, with Francis Mercurio, Career Peer, show you how to set up for a successful work search process. You deserve to get noticed! 

Discovering your Strengths and Natural Interests

What are your strengths, values and interests? Can you talk to people who know you well? What kinds of roles you are excited about? What kinds of challenges you are interested in solving? Do some research and create a lists of companies you like, and the kinds of work you think is needed in the world right now. Keep an open mind, and get to know yourself. 

Being Strategic

After some big sky thinking, you'll want to focus your efforts. Using reliable sources about employment and finding out who’s hiring, signing up for newsletters, and tracking your favourite thought leaders and companies on social media can all help with this process. Volunteering, attending info sessions or career fairs, and expanding your networks on LinkedIn are more strategies you might try. Plus, don't forget to diversify your keyword searches for maximum exposure to opportunities. 

Asking good Questions  

Once you have a sense of the directions you are interested in and what's out there, you'll want to dig deeper into the work, role or company, such as what are the expectations, rewards, or protocols for health and safety, inclusivity, or other specifics to your circumstance. Asking good questions so that you find out that something isn't what you thought, or won't work for you, is so important - before ending up in a job you don't love! 

Talking to People

It is so tempting to remain in the online research stage, but talking to people is KEY to finding the right fit for you and even - for work you love. A virtual coffee (informational interview) with someone in a position you are curious about is an amazing work search tool. So is volunteering, which helps you gain work-related skills and to get involved with various programs, workshops or training. Need some interviewing confidence? Most of us do! Book a virtual interview practice or try out Interview Stream

Analyzing before Applying

You've identified an amazing position you want to apply for...what to do? To have your application stand out in a stack of resumes, you must deconstruct the job description. This helps you identify what the employer wants, and match their list of qualifications to what you can offer. And be sure to study the finer points of applicant tracking systems (ATS) (and who is using them), to ensure you don't unnecessarily miss an opportunity!

Using Keywords

You'll want to import keywords to your resume and cover letter, and adjust the skills summary, skills sections, ordering, and headings to be tailored to the position. Developing accomplishment statements that you can customize, and including the values you share with the company in your cover letter, will also help you to stand out. 

Consistent Formatting and Good Design

Your application has a much better chance of being read when it looks good and is easy to read, but, unless you are applying for a design role, keep it clean, with a simple, consistent layout, and use of formatting tools (bold, bullets, headings) throughout your resume, cover letter, and references list. Find examples in the OLC Co-op Resume Gallery for inspiration. And though there is endless resume advice online, it is always a good idea to get professional feedback. 


We all need editors! Check that all information is accurate and error-free. There is nothing worse than hitting send and realizing there is a spelling error in your opening line! 

Managing your Time

Draw on the awesome skills you've developed as a student to stay organized! Save your contact lists, job descriptions and application documents. Bookmark your research. Focus on the jobs you have the best chance of getting an interview for, or leads that seem the strongest or that you got a referral from (your volunteer network, for example). Always try to make time to research the company and role, and save time for interview practice. 

Remaining Positive and Asking for Help

From Deanne: Keep your head high! It is actually (unfortunately) common to have multiple applications rejected. There are so many reasons why it might not be your time to shine - at this particular job, on this particular day. Try not to get too discouraged, opportunities will continue to show up and there will be a day when the door opens and the offer is made. 

If you have sent out several job applications and heard nothing back, our Career Education Specialists can review your methods and help you learn new ones, so that you can stay hopeful, and feel great about sending quality applications that will pay off for you. 

Try to stay engaged in informational interviewing and volunteer work of some kind, while you're waiting to hear about your ideal job. Future collaborators/employers will be impressed with your proactive mindset, and with how you've used your time to build your knowledge, grow your community and give back.

From Francis: Getting rejected is a big fear for many people, and when a job application you spent hours working on is ignored or dismissed, it can be crushing. You may even feel like the employer rejected you personally, triggering “I’m not good enough” and “no one will ever hire me!” Keep making connections and continue to push out applications for roles you feel excited about. Don’t fail to plan, and get support from a student Career Peer if you are having trouble creating your cover letter, resume or LinkedIn.

Learn to recognize opportunities and leverage your skills and strengths. We have free and confidential appointment for all students and recent alumni. Book at careers@sfu.ca.

Lead image: Photo by Clem Onojeghuo from Unsplash

Deanne Esdale is a Career Education Specialist at Simon Fraser University Career & Volunteer Services and serves as editor for ENGAGE blog. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

Francis Mercurio is a Fourth-Year Psychology student and Business minor concentrating on Human Resources. He enjoys getting to know people, reading books on self-improvement, history and philosophy and volunteering as a Career Peer. You can see what he is up to in through his LinkedIn.

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Posted on May 29, 2020